Swine Flu: bacon has its revenge


Very nicely written. The level of this paper compares well with most professional journalism. Excellent work!]

Swine Flu: bacon has its revenge

Last month two strange flu cases were picked up in San Diego County, California.  After some study of the virus, it was recognized as being similar to the swine flu common in pigs.  The Mexican government took notice of this, since some residents of Mexico City had been reporting what they believed to be “late-season flu.”  The Mexican cases were confirmed by the CDC [expand first use of an acronym] and the World Health Organization [WHO] to be a new strain of H1N1.  The Mexican government distributed face masks to help prevent its spread; though whether or not they have helped has been a subject of dispute.  The media quickly picked up on this “swine flu” and began to spread the word on it.  But is it as big a deal as they say? [Nice introductory paragraph with a clever hook at the end.]

Many countries have closed their doors to the pork trade to try [in an effort] to prevent the spread of the flu.  One thing that makes the swine flu so different is the age of those who develop [contract the disease].  Most swine flu cases in the United States have occurred in people younger than 20 years old. The median age of those diagnosed with it is 17.  With the common flu, normally only the elderly will die, but the swine flu has killed several people of younger generations.

Since the outbreak of the flu, the pork industry has taken a substantial hit.  C. Larry Pope, the chief executive of Smithfield Foods, says “Swine flu is a misnomer; they need to be concerned about influenza, but not eating pork.”  Egypt slaughtered thousands of pigs in an effort to suppress the epidemic, but medical authorities have said that people cannot contract the swine flu from eating properly cooked pork.  Some think Egypt used this as an excuse to target its Christian minority.  (Its Muslim majority does not eat pork.)  In an attempt to eradicate this idea, many are suggesting it be called by its scientific name, H1N1.  Pork sales are seeing a steep decline around the country, so let’s hope the government does not feel obligated to pass a pork bailout bill.[;-)]

Surprisingly, many genetic components of this current flu can be traced not to Mexico, but to a swine flu virus that first emerged in North Carolina a decade ago.  An article in The Huffington Post explains: “The 1998 outbreak, though confined to pigs, spread with ferocious virulence. Soon after the North Carolina sows got sick, outbreaks were reported in Texas, Minnesota, and Iowa herds. Within months, pigs were getting sick nationwide. More than 4,300 samples were taken from swine in 23 states, and on average, 20.5% of them had the new triple-assortment virus. In Illinois and Iowa, 100% of the animals were infected, while Kansas and Oklahoma each reported rates of 90%.”

[With a long quote like this one, it would be best to italicize and to indent the whole block.]Scientists of the time warned that if not addressed, the problem could eventually develop into something greater.  Believe it or not, the current swine flu has been attributed not only to the pig flu, but also the bird flu we were so concerned with a few years ago, as well as the common flu, which helped make it possible for this influenza strain to jump to humans.

Experts disagree upon exactly how dangerous the flu is, or how far and wide this pandemic will reach.  It’s important to understand that a pandemic does not necessarily equal an apocalypse. A pandemic occurs when a new flu virus emerges and starts spreading easily from person to person, and then from country to country.  The swine flu also lacks certain mutations prevalent in the dangerous influenza viruses of the past, such as the catastrophic flu of 1918.  Still, one may want to be careful; even if it’s being blown out of proportion, that doesn’t mean it can’t become dangerous very quickly.  All it needs is a few mutations in its genetic structure, and it can become just as deadly as some make it out to already be[why is this awkward?]. Some authorities think the strain in Mexico City was just that, and that most of what is spreading elsewhere is a less formidable variety [or “strain”].  Many think it would have spread more rapidly had it been as dangerous as first expected.  Only a confirmed 26 have died of the flu out of the nearly 1000 cases reported (though the real number may be larger.)  On average, 36,000 people die from seasonal flu every year.

Influenza rarely survives through the summer because of the increased radiation from the sun, so we should be hopeful, whether or not the flu is as serious a problem as some purport it to be.  Still, we should take steps to prevent it; and the best advice I can give you is to wash your hands and cook your bacon. [Nice ending. Good arc and premise. ]

Comments are closed.